In case you have't noticed, the Pittsburgh Steelers are quickly turning into a wide receiver factory. Whether it is a product of Todd Haley's system, Mike Tomlin as a head coach, Kevin Colbert as the overseer of talent or Ben Roethlisberger making them look good, the Steelers know how to draft and develop receivers.
With an already stacked deck of talent at the receiver position, the team surprised many by selecting Sammie Coates out of Auburn in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. When reading his draft breakdowns and reports from the NFL Scouting Combine, it all sounded extremely familiar.
"Extremely long and athletic."
"Powerful with the football, can stretch the field."
"Very raw, route running is an issue."
"Should be considered a project, not an NFL ready WR."
You could take out the name Sammie Coates and insert Martavis Bryant and you would have read almost the exact same verbiage to describe the two wide receivers before they entered the NFL. The other aspect of these statements is how they are very true. Coates is a specimen with both size and speed, but you could tell early in the season he wasn't polished at the receiver position -- at least not to NFL standards.
Nonetheless, Coates sat and watched, and worked on his craft every day in practice in hopes of impressing the coaches enough to give him a shot. The only problem was, with talents like Bryant, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and the experienced Darrius Heyward-Bey all in front of you, sometimes you have to be patient.
Coates was just that, and unfortunately for the team, when Brown was lost in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs with a concussion, Coates was called upon to show what he could do on the biggest stage of the 2015 season -- and he didn't disappoint.
In the game vs. the Denver Broncos, Coates hauled in 2 catches for 61 yards, and showed off the power and speed discussed in those scouting reports. It might seem as something so small, but for Coates to finish the season with a game like that against the NFL's top-ranked defense, it will only help him heading into his sophomore season.
He didn't just help himself in the playoffs, he helped show the coaches his potential for the 2016 season. With Heyward-Bey headed for free agency, the Steelers might be able to rest a bit easier now knowing Coates got a taste of success, and could be ready to fill the No. 4 receiver role next season.
Most would say a rookie season of 3 catches for 72 yards and no touchdowns was a disaster, but fans who follow the game closely know Coates could be ready for prime time in 2016...all he needs is an opportunity.